School is back in session. The kids are gone and you finally have some alone time. Joyful with the prospect of dropping off the kiddies at school, and not having to pick them up until after 3:00, you wake up each morning relieved and excited. Sure you love them to a million pieces, but coming from a full stint of a winter vacation, where the days were filled with countless games, trips, holiday rushes and headache causing screams; a vacation for yourself, is much needed. You embrace it, happily. But not too happily, lest someone thinks you a bad parent for finding relief in quiet solitude without your little rascals. And what will you do now with all this free time on your hands? I’m sure you’ll find ways to entertain yourself, and relax. Leisurely activities of lounging around. Coffee filled mornings, catching up on your stories. It isn’t so much that you need to find things to do, for there is always plenty to do around the house. Your relief comes from the idea that you have the house to yourself, and that although you have to do household chores, such as cleaning, grocery shopping and cooking, you do these tasks on your own time and at your own discretion with naps scattered in between.
Simple tasks that you once dreaded, like grocery shopping and cooking, now become fun and joyous. You allow your creative and inventive juices to flow in the kitchen, and why? Because you don’t have to worry about what the kids are doing or fighting about in the other room. Or have to hurry and make a quick dinner because you’ve spent the day entertaining them. No. Now you have the full day to go to the market by yourself without the constant “Can I please have this please? Pretty please?” You can plan out a nice supper and actually take the time and effort to make a healthy, delicious and substantial meal for those you love. As different ideas and recipes come to mind, you start to struggle. The last thing you want to do is spend all your alone time, in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove. In fact, you want to avoid a compartmentalized meal, with a main dish and multiple sides. Who has that kind of time? Suddenly the lightbulb over your head goes off. An all in one easy meal is the path you need to take. You’re sure of it. Preferably one that takes minimal work and less clean up in the end. Because of course, you have clean up duty as well. What is it going to be? Bingo, Shepherd’s Pie. Suddenly a smile takes over your face. And why does the prospect of this Irish dish cause you to smile and jump for joy, on the inside of course, on the inside? Because not only is it a one pot wonder meal, but it has the protein, the vegetable and the starch all rolled into one. Or should I say, all layered into one fantastic dish.
You make the pie in no time, and with such an ease that would make other stay-at-home-parents jealous. The kitchen is all clean, and dinner is waiting to be heated and devoured by the troops. You step back admire your work and go into the living room. There you take a nap, a little afternoon siesta if you will. You nap like a baby. No, like a cat. Better yet, let’s make that a baby kitten. Yes, you nap like a baby kitten, because you’ve conquered a monumental task and although your free time has come to an end and you’re now parked outside of your children’s school waiting for them to enter the car, waiting for them to fill you in on the first day back at school, you take comfort in the fact that come tomorrow morning, you’ll be free again. Because the best part of them being in elementary school, is that they have to go five days a week. Just wait until college when they make their own schedules and don’t have to go to attend everyday, but you place that thought on the back burner, you still have a ways to go. In the meantime, you start the car and drive down the street toward home, with a smile on you face, the loves of your life in the rearview mirror, and a delicious Shepherd’s Pie waiting to be eaten.
Essentially this is two different recipes put together.
The first recipe is Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Let’s start with that.
The very first thing we need to do is peel the potatoes.
Now, I know I know, peeling potatoes is nothing but pure fun. Try to hold in your enthusiasm.
Chop up the potatos into a medium dice, and make sure that they are each uniform in size.
You’ll want the pieces to be similar in size so that they all cook evenly and are ready at the same time.
Drop them into a medium pot.
Fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes completely. About 2 inches above the potatoes.
Bring to a boil, uncovered, and cook until the potatoes are fork tender.
What is fork tender you might ask? Well, that means you stick a fork into one of the taters and if it is soft and easily slides in, well then they’re done.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the meantime, as the potatoes cook, roast the garlic.
You’ll need a whole two heads of garlic. Yes, two whole heads. Don’t worry about it, it wont be bitter at all. When garlic is roasted for a long period of time, it gets brown and sweet, not bitter.
Separate all the cloves.
It’s now time to peel them.
The best way to do this is to put your knife, flat side down, over a clove and give it a good whack.
Just a gentle smash, and the skin will slightly separate.
Then remove the peels with your hands, it should come off easily.
Continue with the rest of the cloves.
It’s a good de-stresser, if you’re having a bad day. You’ll let out all of your frustration and anger.
See? Cooking is helpful.
Once all the garlic cloves have been peeled, cut a sheet of aluminum foil.
Make that two sheets, to prevent any drips in the oven.
So two sheets of foil.
Place the garlic onto the foil.
Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the cloves.
Season with salt and pepper.
Wrap the garlic, into a tight package, with just the first layer of foil.
Now take the second piece and wrap it in the same way, tightly.
This will ensure that all the flavor stays inside. It’s really just to prevent a mess from occurring.
Pop it into a 350° oven.
Roast the garlic for about 30 minutes, rotating half way.
When the potatoes are done, drain them into a colander.
Leave the potatoes in the colander for a few minutes, allowing all the liquid to drain completely.
Transfer them back into the pot they boiled in.
Add the butter and give them a good mash and smash with a potato masher or a handheld mixer.
Throw in the buttermilk. Start with a little at a time, mixing after each addition. Sometimes you don’t need all the liquid.
When it’s smooth and creamy, you’ll know its enough.
These need a tiny bit of color.
Grab some chives, which happen to go great with potatoes, and give them a quick mince.
Mince is just a fancy word for chopping really tiny.
Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, and the minced chives.
Once the garlic has roasted for half an hour, carefully remove the foil package from the oven. Let it cool down for a bit, before opening.
I have to stop for a minute and let you know that roasted garlic probably has to be the best flavor in the world. You might not like garlic, because you think its bitter and strong, and raw garlic is, but slow roasted garlic has a completely different flavor. Trust me.
Its powerful and jam-packed with tons of flavor.
Add it to the potatoes, oil and all.
Give the potatoes a good mash, making sure to smash the cloves thoroughly. This will release all of the garlic juices.
So now our roasted garlic mashed potatoes are done and ready to use.
Move them to the side, while you work on the filling for the “pie.” I know it must be hard to forget about those delicious potatoes, but you must resist the urge to eat them.
Here’s what we’ll need for the second part of this recipe:
First thing’s first, preheat a large heavy duty pot. I like to use a dutch oven.
If you have one, great, use it. If not, no worries, any large deep pot will work.
Drizzle in the olive oil.
Swish it around to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.
What do we need next?
Now I know that ground beef isn’t traditional in Shepherd’s pie. Traditionally it would be made with cubed up lamb. BUT, I like it with ground beef better. Give it a try.
Carefully, drop the ground beef into the pan.
Using a wooden spoon, break down the beef, and brown it until it is completely cooked through.
Just keep using the spoon to break it up into tiny pieces.
While that cooks, let’s chop up some veggies.
You’ll need an onion, of course.
Cut the onion in half, peel them, and give them a rough chop.
It doesn’t have to be precise chopping. Just do a rustic run through, with your knife.
Next up is a couple of carrots. Depending on their size, about two medium ones. If they are on the smaller side, I would do about 4.
Peel the carrots and cut off the ends on each side.
Give the carrots a rough chop as well. Again they don’t have to be precise cuts, just similar in size to the onions, so they cook evenly.
Next comes the garlic.
Peel them, like we did earlier for the potatoes, and mince them. Oh there’s that fancy word again.
Good thing we know what it means.
So now the meat should be browned. Let’s see.
Yup it’s ready.
Add the onions, garlic, and carrots to this.
Mix everything together.
Make sure the veggies get coated well with the meat.
Cook until the veggies are brown and tender.
Now we need mushrooms.
I like crimini mushrooms, which are just baby portabellas.
Chop them up.
Same sizes as the others.
Okay, add it to the pot.
They want to join the flavor hot tub as well.
Give it a stir.
We flavor this thing.
Thyme. Yup, we need fresh thyme.
Before we throw it in, lets just strip down the leaves, and smaller stems.
What you do is, hold a sprig of thyme at the very tip and then pull down (against the stems) scrape off all the leaves, leaving just the large stem.
And now for some bay leaves. I used dry, but if you have fresh on hand, by all means use the fresh.
Season with salt and pepper, the usual suspects.
Give it a good stir.
Add about a tablespoon of tomato paste.
Drop it in and give it another good mix.
Let it cook for a while, a couple more minutes.
Okay next step, add a bit of flour.
The flour allows the sauce to thicken.
Just sprinkle it on top.
Mix in the flour evenly, and cook it for a few minutes to get rid of that raw flour taste.
And now, for the best part of the dish. The only part that is important, if you ask me.
Yup, Irish beer. Why not? We might as well have fun.
If you’re underage, just skip this part as I don’t condone minors drinking or buying alcohol. This is a public service announcement.
Anyhow, pour in the beer. A good 3/4 of it into the pan.
What do you do with the 1/4 left? Well, you drink it of course!!!
As you pour in the beer, scrape down the bottom of the pan and pick up all the pan dripping. That’s where all the flavor is.
Let it cook for a bit, this will allow the alcohol to cook off.
Throw in a couple dashes of worcestershire sauce.
Let’s also add a bit of beef stock/broth. It’ll just enhance the flavors and bring everything together.
Okay, and finally, for the last ingredient.
Something vibrant and green.
Peas! It’s a classic Shepherd’s Pie ingredient, and it wouldn’t be complete without it.
Okay, now it’s done.
Grab a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Carefully pour in the cooked meat and veggies.
Remember to fish out the bay leaves, you wouldn’t want someone to chomp down on one of them. Or would you?
It looks good just like this already. What else do we have to do?
Well, we can’t forget about those mashed potatoes we worked so hard on earlier.
Now’s the time to grab them. Get a big scoop of taters….
Evenly spread out the potatoes across the entire pan.
Spread it until its completely covered. With the back of the spoon make little peaks on the potatoes, this will cause the edges to brown and get crunchy in the oven.
Pop it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned and crispy.
Or at this point you could even, allow it to cool down, wrap it with aluminum and place it in the fridge for later or the next day. Just place it in a preheated 350° oven and cook it for about 45-50 minutes instead.
I, however, couldn’t resist the temptation of eating it right away so I popped mine in the oven immediately.
Okay so now we’re done, right? Normally we would be finished and I’d tell you to go grab your plates and forks.
However, it needs a little extra something to take it over the edge. It’s not a traditional ingredient, but I love adding it.
What could it be? What could it be?
That’s right, cheese. Sharp cheddar cheese.
Grate about a cup. That should be good enough.
Sprinkle the cheese, evenly, over the potato layer.
So pop this in the oven one last time. This time turn on the broiler and let it melt and crisp the cheese for about 5 minutes.
Make sure to keep an eye on it, as the broiler could burn things rather quickly. Last thing we want to do is burn this heavenly pie.
When its done, it’ll look like so….
Okay, now we are absolutely, positively, finished.
Let it cool for a minute or so, just so you wont burn off all of your taste buds or the roof of your mouth. Safety first. Always.
Once it’s cooled, serve yourself a piece.
A giant scoop.
A full balanced and complete meal for you; that’s what that is.
It doesn’t get any better than this.
Well, I could think of one thing that would make this better.
My Irish Soda Bread. Find the recipe here.
I like serving it with a big slice of soda bread. Who cares that we already have carbs on the plate. What’s a little more?
Yea….what’s a little more going to hurt?
Might as well enjoy life. After all, we only have one.
I’ll be spending mine, eating potatoes and bread and meat ’round the clock. What will you be doing?
An original recipe from The Candid Appetite. Enjoy.
Yield: 6-8 servings
For the Potatoes:
- 2 pounds baking potatoes, such as russets
- 2 whole heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 tablespoons butter, sliced
- 1 cup buttermilk
For the meat filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 – 1/2 pounds ground beef, (ground chicken, turkey or lamb, if preferred)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 box of crimini mushrooms (about 10 caps), stemmed and sliced
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 – 1/2 cups guinness beer, or 3/4 of a pint bottle
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 beef stock or broth
- 1 – 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°
Peel and cut the potatoes into a large dice. Place in a pot, fill with enough water to cover the potatoes completely, about 2 inches above, and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, when a fork goes in rather smoothly and easily. While the potatoes cook, roast the garlic. Place the peeled garlic cloves onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with the olive oil, and season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Wrap the sheet of foil around the garlic, like a package. Repeat the folding process with another sheet of foil, to prevent dripping. Place in the oven and roast for about 25-30 minutes.
Once the potatoes are soft, drain. Put them back in the pot, add the butter and mash together. Slowly add the buttermilk, 1/4 cup at a time, you might not need the full cup of buttermilk. Keep adding the milk until the potatoes are smooth and creamy, or desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and black pepper. Mince the chives, add it to the potatoes and mash once more.
When the garlic is done roasting, remove the package from the oven and allow to cool, slightly. Open the foil and add the cloves, with the oil into the potatoes. Thoroughly mash and smash the cloves into the potatoes. Taste to see if it is okay with salt and pepper, add more if needed. Set the potatoes aside while you make the filling.
Heat a large dutch oven, or pot, over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the ground beef. Cook the ground beef, constantly breaking down the meat with a spoon. Allow the meat to brown and cook completely. Once the beef is browned, add the chopped onion, carrots, and garlic to the pot. Cook until they are translucent and soft. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally.
Add the thyme leaves, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pot. Stir once again to mix evenly and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Throw in the tomato paste and break it down into the meat and veggies. Sprinkle the mixture with the flower and allow it to cook for 3-4 minutes.
Pour in the guinness and scrape down the bottom of the pan, loosening the pan drippings. Add the worcestershire sauce, and beef stock. Cook until the sauce has thickened and somewhat reduced. Lastly, throw in the peas and mix well. Remove from the heat.
Pour the meat filling into a 9×13 baking dish, no need to grease or butter. Spread out the mixture evenly. Grab the mashed potatoes from earlier and scoop it onto the top of the beef. Evenly spread out the potatoes, completely covering the beef. Place in the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and crispy. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the shredded cheese, evenly on top of the potatoes. Place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and browned. Watch it carefully as the broiler can burn things rather quickly.
Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Serve with Irish Soda Bread, or with a salad, if desired. Enjoy!